EXT. SMALLVILLE — BYRNE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL — DAY
We have jumped forward to 1919. Clark is now five years of age and today is his first day of kindergarten. Entering the school grounds, his hand in Martha’s, the young boy takes in the sight of the low brick building and all the children of various ages milling about it.
MARTHA: Here we are, Clark — your first day at school. (looks down at Clark) How do you feel?
CLARK: (looks up at Martha) Why can’t I stay home, Ma? Why can’t you and Pa teach me?
MARTHA: Because all the work we have to do on the farm keeps us busy, dearheart; we don’t have the time to teach you.
CLARK: Can’t you stop working on the farm awhile?
MARTHA: That’d be nice, Clark, but no. If we don’t work, we can’t pay for food and clothing. Then you’d go cold and hungry.
Taking his eyes off Martha, Clark looks out at all the children roaming about.
CLARK: There’s so many boys and girls, Ma. What if they don’t like me? (hugs Martha’s leg) I’m scared. I don’t wanna go to school.
Kneeling down, Martha rests her hands on Clark’s small shoulders.
MARTHA: I get scared, too, Clark. I get scared when your pa and I can’t make enough money to pay all our bills; I get scared when it’s dark and I can’t find a light; and I get scared whenever you hurt yourself. But I don’t let my fear control me, Clark; I fight it — fight it hard. I fight it until it goes away. (beat) That’s what you have to do, Clark — fight the fear until it gets scared of you and lets you alone.
Letting go of Martha’s leg, the boy turns his attention back to the other children.
CLARK: I’ll try, Ma.
MARTHA: That’s my boy.
The school bell TOLLS. Hearing the reverberations, the kids begin flocking into the school to start their first day of class.
MARTHA: That’s the school bell, Clark. You remember what it means?
CLARK: To go inside and start class.
MARTHA: You remember where your classroom is?
MARTHA: That’s good. You go now, Clark, and have a good first day. I’ll be back later to pick you up after school’s over.
Tentative, Clark takes a step forward. Turning back, he waves goodbye to his mother. After she waves back, he turns away from her and resumes walking, crossing the grass all the way to the front entrance. Once he has slipped inside, Martha smiles. Turning around, she walks away.
INT. BYRNE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL/CLARK’S CLASSROOM — DAY
All the children have gathered inside and are seated at their tables. Standing at the head of the class, dressed in a gray-brown suit and a pair of thick-framed, square glasses, is MISS MAGGIN, a forty-something woman with graying brown hair and an immovable rictus grin for a smile.
MISS MAGGIN: (unnaturally enthusiastic) Hello, everyone! I’m Miss Maggin, your kindergarten teacher! This is your first day in school, and I know you’re not used to being away from home yet! I promise, though, that in time you’ll get used to coming to class and you’ll all learn to have fun while you’re here! (beat) Does anyone have any questions?
Had there been any crickets hiding in the classroom, they would’ve burst into song at that moment.
MISS MAGGIN: (cont’d) No questions? No questions at all? (beat) Alright — okay! That’s just fine! It probably means you’re all excited to get to know one another and start learning! (claps hands briskly) Everyone get up, move from your tables, and pair up with a friend or two! Find a place to get comfortable and tell each other your names, what your mamas and papas do, what your favourite colours are — whatever comes to mind! Share and learn! Share and learn!
Under Miss Maggin’s compulsion, the kids rise from their tables and begin pairing up. Clark, a little more reticent than his classmates, chooses to remain seated while the others spread out within the room. Noticing Clark just sitting there, PETER ROSS — a freckled boy with light blond hair — approaches him.
PETE: Hi, my name’s Pete. What’s yours?
PETE: My dad owns a creamed corn factory; he makes a lot of creamed corn and packs it up in hundreds of tin cans. What does your dad do?
CLARK: My pa’s a farmer and so’s my ma. We’ve got cows and chickens and wheat and tomatoes and beans and corn, too.
PETE: Maybe my dad gets his corn from your dad.
PETE: What’s your favourite colour, Clark? Mine’s green.
CLARK: Red’s my favourite. (beat) No, blue. (frowns) Maybe yellow?
Pete just stands there, staring at Clark. Clark goes silent, freezing up. Then, from out of the blue, Pete begins LAUGHING, guffawing uproariously. The tension broken, Clark LAUGHS right alongside him. Laughing like a pair of hyenas, tears begin running down their faces as everyone else in the room turns to regard them as if they were the strangest two young boys on Earth.
EXT. SMALLVILLE — BYRNE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL — PLAYGROUND — DAY
Some time has passed and the kids of Miss Maggin’s class have been let out for recess. Walking together, Clark and Pete make their way to the swing set. As they near the swings, they find BRAD WILSON, WHITNEY FORDMAN, and JASON TEAGUE — all in the first and second grade — surrounding and picking on KENNY BRAVERMAN, a small black boy from their class.
BRAD WILSON: How’s your first day in school, boy? Learn anything yet?
WHITNEY FORDMAN: Yeah — you learn where your jungle is on the map, Sambo?
KENNY: (stammering) P-p-please — lemme alone! I didn’t do anything to you!
JASON TEAGUE: You don’t belong here. This is a normal school for normal kids.
BRAD WILSON: Get outta here!
Lunging forward, Whitney shoves Kenny, knocking him to his stomach. Stooping down, he places a hand on the back of Kenny’s head and begins pushing his face into the earth.
WHITNEY FORDMAN: Eat it, nigger! Eat the dirt you’re made of!
As the older kids heap abuse on Kenny, Clark and Pete stand there, frozen, unsure of what to do.
PETE: Maybe we should help him.
CLARK: I don’t know….
As the two five-year-olds ponder on what to do, LANA LANG — a cute girl with bright red hair who is also from their class — strides up to the bullies, an expression of angry indignation creasing her round face.
LANA: You let him alone, you meanies!
Grabbing Whitney’s collar, Lana pulls back, trying to yank him off Kenny. Grabbing her collar, Brad easily pulls Lana away from his friend. Flailing her clenched fists about in the air, Lana tries connecting with the punk’s nasty face without success.
LANA: I’m telling on you!
BRAD WILSON: G’wan, carrot-top — beat it!
Grabbing Lana by the face, Brad pushes her back. Sprawling, she falls to the earth. Finally deciding that enough is enough, Clark leaves Pete’s side. Clenching his fists and holding his head high, he approaches the three bullies and their victim.
CLARK: Let him alone!
Nearing Whitney, Clark shoves him, calling up all the strength available to his small body to knock the larger boy off the black boy. Unprepared for the attack, the bully is pushed over on his side.
WHITNEY FORDMAN: Hey!
Offering his hand to Kenny, Clark helps him to his feet. Positioning himself in from of the smaller boy, he acts as a shield between Kenny and the three bullies.
CLARK: (points at Brad) If you don’t let him alone, I’m going to tell Miss Maggin about you.
BRAD WILSON: (mocking) Ooh, you’re gonna tell Miss Maggin about us! (sneers) Go ahead, nigger-lover — tell her.
Brad violently grabs the front of Clark’s shirt. Baring his teeth, Clark slaps the rude hand off him.
CLARK: Don’t touch me again!
As one, the three older boys crowd in on Clark, prepared to beat the living tar out of the defiant kindergartener. Before tensions can escalate that far, one of the school teachers appears on the scene.
TEACHER: (approaches children) What’s going on here‽ What are you boys up to‽
The trio backs away from Clark and Kenny.
JASON TEAGUE: (grins) Nothin’. We’s just playin’ with the new kids.
BRAD WILSON: Yeah, we’s just playin’. (narrows eyes at Clark) Ain’t that right?
Clark stares bullets at the older boy, not speaking a word.
TEACHER: Play or no, there’ll be no rough housing on this playground. Do I make myself understood?
BRAD WILSON: (eyes on Clark) Yes.
Satisfied, the teacher departs. Once the instructor is out of earshot, the first boy looms menacingly over Clark.
BRAD WILSON: (pokes Clark in chest) You and your coon get a pass this time, runt. Next time, we’ll pummel you both into ground chuck.
At that, the three older boys move off. Once they’re gone, Clark turns to Kenny.
CLARK: You okay?
KENNY: Yeah. Thanks.
CLARK: What’s your name?
KENNY: Kenny — Kenny Braverman.
Moving in, Pete and Lana join Clark and Kenny.
PETE: It’s super how you stood up to them, Clark! I wish I was as brave as you!
LANA: (hugs Clark) I like you! You can be my boyfriend!
The amount of attention and affection proving to be too much for him to handle, Clark blushes.
INT. TRUCK/CAB — DAY
Hours later, Clark sits in the passenger side of the family Model T as Martha drives them back home.
MARTHA: Did you have a good day at school today, Clark?
MARTHA: Did you make any friends?
CLARK: Three. First was Pete Ross. His pa owns a creamed corn factory.
MARTHA: Uh-huh. Your pa and I have met Mr. Ross.
CLARK: (cont’d) Then there’s Lana Lang. She’s a girl. She has lovely red hair.
MARTHA: (smiles) She’s Hel’s niece. You remember Helen.
CLARK: Uh-huh. (beat) Then there’s Kenny Braverman.
MARTHA: Braverman? I don’t recognize the name. His family must be new in town.
CLARK: Ma …
MARTHA: Yes, Clark?
CLARK: What’s “nigger” mean?
MARTHA: (faces Clark) It’s what some people call Negroes.
CLARK: Is it a bad word?
CLARK: Some big kids called Kenny that. They were picking on him, shoving his face in the dirt. Why were they doing that?
MARTHA: Well, Clark, some people don’t like Negroes.
CLARK: Why don’t they like them?
MARTHA: I suppose it’s because they don’t understand them. Too many people are afraid of what they don’t understand.
CLARK: If they understood them…?
MARTHA: They’d see them as God’s children, created in His image, just as they are.
CLARK: The boys who were being mean to Kenny — could they learn to understand Negroes?
MARTHA: It’s hard for people to change, Clark, but not impossible. They’d have to want to change first.
CLARK: How can you make a person want to change?
MARTHA: The best you can do is provide a good example and hope they follow it. If you do good things for good reasons, those boys might think about why you’re doing them. If they think long and think hard on them, they may come around to your point of view.
CLARK: So if I show those kids that Negroes are good, they’ll learn they’re good?
MARTHA: (smiles) Something like that, honey.
INT. BYRNE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL/CLARK’S CLASSROOM — DAY
A number of months later, Clark sits at his table in his classroom. Strangely enough, only about half of Miss Maggin’s students are present today, with only one other child sharing Clark’s table: Kenny.
CLARK: (to Kenny) Where is everybody? I haven’t seen Pete or Lana in days.
Kenny, his eyes red, looking as sick as the proverbial dog, coughs violently in Clark’s face, spraying droplets of saliva in the other boy’s eyes.
CLARK: (disgusted) Yuck!
KENNY: (runs hand across runny nose) Sorry, Clark.
Hearing Kenny’s coughing, Miss Maggin marches straight up to their table, an expression of concern worn across her face.
MISS MAGGIN: Kenny, are you feeling alright?
KENNY: Not very, ma’am.
MISS MAGGIN: (sighs) I’m going to give your father a call to come over and take you home. There’s no sense in you being here sick as you are.
KENNY: (horrified) Oh, no, ma’am! Please! I’m not that sick — not really!
MISS MAGGIN: Nonsense! You’ve come down with measles, child, and I’ll not have you stay in this class one minute longer than necessary!
Turning on her heels, Miss Maggin promptly marches off in search of a telephone. Despondent, Kenny lowers his head to the table, hiding his face in his arms.
CLARK: Oh, c’mon, Kenny. It’s not that bad.
KENNY: You don’t know my daddy, Clark.
INT. KENT HOME/LIVING ROOM — DAY
Jonathan is seated in his armchair, feet propped up on a footstool, reading through a pulp magazine when Clark and Martha enter the room.
JONATHAN: (faces Clark) Have a good day in school today, son?
CLARK: It was okay, I guess. (beat) There weren’t many kids in class today and Kenny got sent home early; he wasn’t feeling very good. (grimaces) He coughed on me.
JONATHAN: (frowns) He coughed on you?
CLARK: Right in my face.
JONATHAN: Go wash up.
CLARK: I feel fine, Pa.
JONATHAN: Doesn’t matter. Go wash your face and don’t forget to use soap.
Shrugging, Clark leaves the living room in search of a sink. Martha takes a seat across from her husband.
MARTHA: It’s measles; most of the children have come down with it. (beat) I hope Clark doesn’t get sick.
A moment of silence passes between them.
JONATHAN: Has Clark ever been sick, Martha?
JONATHAN: Really, Martha, think. In the six years Clark’s been with us, have you ever seen him come down with a fever, a cough, a single, solitary sniffle?
MARTHA: (frowns) Of course I have!
JONATHAN: Name a time.
MARTHA: Well, I … I …
JONATHAN: Remember last November, when we were both struck down with the flu? We were so sick we couldn’t care for Clark at all; we had to leave him with your brother, Kendall, ‘til we got over it. Clark, though, he remained chipper as a jaybird. Then there was the March before, when Curt got chicken pox. He surely should have caught it from him; he didn’t.
MARTHA: He’s been lucky, that’s all.
JONATHAN: (skeptical) Mayhap….
MARTHA: Jonathan Kent, what are you saying? That our boy can’t ever get sick‽
JONATHAN: I’m not saying anything. (beat) It’s just queer — damned queer.